TO: Local Planning Agency
FROM: Carol Cunningham
DATE: March 31, 1997
SUBJECT: Summary of Comments and Input from "Enhancing Our Resources" Workshop
The following provides a summary of the "Enhancing our Resources" workshop, the second
community-wide workshop for the comprehensive plan, held on March 22, 1997.
The specific purposes of this workshop were for the community to review and respond to
the concepts developed by Dover, Kohl & Partners from the "Designing Our Town"
Workshop, and to identify issues and propose recommendations to enhance and preserve
the town's environmental, cultural, and historic resources.
More broadly, the workshop provided an opportunity to build upon the outreach network
initiated in the first workshop; to expand the concept of what makes a "livable" community to
include sustainable, accessible natural resource amenities; to find common ground and build
cooperative relationships; and to see opportunities for hands-on involvement in the
management and stewardship of the Town's resources.
After welcoming remarks from Mayor Anita Cereceda and John Mulholland, Chairman of
the Local Planning Agency, Bill Spikowski provided an overview of the workshop.
Improving Our Community Through Urban Design
This presentation by Victor Dover of Dover, Kohl & Partners outlined the four basic
community design ideas which emerged from the previous workshop "Designing our Town":
- Estero Boulevard -- "Tame It and Frame It." Estero Boulevard is the premier public
space on the Island, and it needs a coherent organization including proper placement
of trees, sidewalks, parking lots etc.
- Residential streets should increasingly become more shady, friendly spaces.
- Redevelopment sites should embody the "traditional neighborhood" concepts including
mixed uses and pedestrian-oriented forms to achieve a design that feels complete and
minimizes trips onto Estero Boulevard.
- Pedestrian and cyclist connections throughout the Island should be undertaken as a
long term effort, beginning now and completed over time.
Victor Dover elaborated on these four basic ideas as follows:
Estero Boulevard -- "Tame It and Frame It"
- Estero Boulevard should be calm, walkable, safe, interesting, and beautiful. Estero
Boulevard is part of the Town's economic engine, and its character and beauty is
important not only to those that live here but to our visitors. Successful tourism
depends on the memories folks take home with them.
- The newly renovated Huston Studio is a fine example of architecture and urbanism.
- Make it a priority to extend the network of sidewalks.
- Pick up the "Avenue of Palms" concept from the early years on Fort Myers Beach.
- Design the streets so that their design changes the behavior of motorists.
- Move palm trees to the street edge of the sidewalk.
- Minimize the width of Estero Boulevard.
- Have traffic calming techniques applied liberally.
- Line with palm trees.
- Bring buildings close to the sidewalk. An example of this concept and of
flood-elevated construction is the old hardware store, with steps up outside (and
potentially more steps up inside).
Residential Streets -- "Achieve a Higher Ambition"
- Incorporate regularly spaced street and shade trees.
- Borrow from the design tradition of cottages utilizing front porches and decks, having
the fronts face the streets.
- In the few areas where there is potential for new development, introduce alleys where
trash pickup and driveways can occur away from public display.
- Minimize lane widths.
- Design tight street corner dimensions.
- Any new streets should be part of a highly connected network which includes
mid-block paths and alleys.
Redevelopment Areas of Focus
In addition to the Core Area which has been the subject of extensive planning, the areas of
the Island which are the subject of special community design focus include:
Crescent Street to Bay Oaks
- School Street
- Makes connection from bay side to beach side.
- Park/school entrance needs to be commemorated and celebrated.
- At the end of School Street -- encourage a civic effort to bring back the arches, instill
community pride, may change quality of life and "memorability."
- School Street image -- move on historic buildings (or infill with new buildings that
- Potential location for "signature" structure such as a new civic building would be at the
end of the long straight view along Estero Boulevard, looking from Times Square to
where the road curves (where the First Union Bank is now).
Pearl Street to the Red Coconut
- The Gulfview/Red Coconut area has future potential to redevelop as a traditional
- The specific uses are not as important as:
- 1) retaining connection and views to water.
- 2) Providing a mix housing types -- detached cottages and houses, row houses,
townhouses, apartment buildings. Estero Blvd edge needs more durable building type
such as apartments, bed and breakfast, or other mixed use including some commercial
at ground level.
- Lots in the neighborhood would have fronts and backs and street trees, with streets
interconnected from Donora and Shell Mound.
- Implementing such a "traditional neighborhood" concept would require revisions to the
land development code, particularly pertaining to lot size and setbacks.
Villa Santini Area
- For a section along Estero Blvd. about 1000 feet long:
- Bring buildings closer to street.
- Re-route or culvert the existing drainage ditches.
- Return on-street parking (diagonal).
- Don't need lots of new commercial intensity but it should be re-configured (a concept
plan was presented for Villa Santini Plaza which included an area in front for a new
structure and locations further back for a small cinema, plus a central green/plaza area
for overflow parking and for a trolley transfer point).
- On-street parking and parking behind the front building.
- Town needs to decide whether it wants a neighborhood-scaled Main Street (strategic
location, looks like a town, pedestrian friendly), or a strip commercial center as it is
Island-Wide Pedestrian and Bicycle Connections
- A system of "hidden paths" off Estero Boulevard meandering through the Island,
interconnected as continuously as possible.
- Local foundation, or a community land trust, could acquire existing vacant lots and
easements gradually over time as they become available.
- Change the land development code, if necessary, to allow smaller lots where a path
Community Input: Improving Our Community Through Urban Design
The following summarizes the discussion in the small groups which focused first on the Villa
Santini area (11:30 group) and then on the Bay Oaks/Red Coconut areas (1:00 group).
Crescent Street to Bay Oaks/ Pearl Street to Red Coconut area
- Cottage Preservation throughout Island (allow changes in use?).
- Cottage Preservation (as historic preservation) may allow codes to be relaxed.
- Estero Boulevard -- change location of palms to outside of sidewalk.
- Bike/pedestrian trail (hidden paths) -- with small parks and landscaping.
- Shade trees on residential streets.
- Where is the heart of the Island (civic center?).
- Should cottages be saved? preserved? updated?
- Should buildings be set back in single-family house areas?
- Deal with buildings on an individual basis -- allow more flexibility.
- What replaces cottages (architectural review for each submittal?)
- What about neighbors to the "hidden path" network?
- What about traffic at interconnected streets?
- What about the danger of falling trees on residential streets during high water?
Villa Santini Area
- Adds to character/ambiance of south end.
- Diagonal parking to calm traffic.
- Sidewalks at and around Santini.
- Possibility of overlay district.
- Has advantage of dealing with a common owner/management vs. multiple owners.
- Diagonal parking backing onto Estero Blvd.
- No cross street connection.
- Assurance of back alleys for delivery trash and dumpsters.
- Need for separate paths for walkers and bikes, plus bike storage.
- Provide for minimum number of driveways and turn offs.
Issues Related to Mother-in Law Apartments
Following Victor Dover's presentation, Bill Spikowski made a brief presentation of the
issues related to mother-in-law apartments in Fort Myers Beach, inviting those interested in
helping to formulate policy proposals to explore the issue in depth in the breakout group.
The output of both sessions of discussion on this issue is summarized below.
Community Input: Issues Related to Mother-in Law Apartments
- It's probably OK to make the rules on accessory apartments a little more lenient
because these apartments are so prevalent at Fort Myers Beach, but don't let this be
an excuse to damage the character of neighborhoods.
- Some units might be OK at their locations but they may be fire hazards because of
- Let's not make any changes that could induce FEMA to pull flood insurance from all
other property owners.
- Some units are called mother-in-law apartments but they're really sub-standard rental
apartments that violate neighborhood standards.
- There is a real problem of over-occupancy of some rental units, including some
single-family homes. What can the Town do to prevent this?
The following approach may be workable for new rules at Fort Myers Beach:
- Allow several paths to a permit for a legal mother-in-law apartment:
- OK if it was built before zoning began in 1962; or
- OK if it complies with zoning and the comprehensive plan density limits (which should
be modified where appropriate); or
- OK (maybe) if it's a single small apartment in an owner-occupied home.
- In any case, do not legalize or allow any units that violate the FEMA regulations, or
which cannot meet proper building inspections
- Apartments that meet these criteria would be placed on some type of registry so that:
- they do not need to be re-investigated if a complaint arises; and
- the authorities can levy whatever taxes or fees are proper for the unit in question.
A comprehensive memorandum which identifies and evaluates options developed by the
consulting team and reviewed by the public at this workshop and which recommends a
policy direction for use in the comprehensive plan is being provided to the LPA for
consideration in their April 8, 1997 meeting.
Enhancing our Natural and Cultural Assets: Overview
Our first speaker during this portion of the workshop was Roger Clark, Lee County Parks
and Recreation, who provided an overview of the many environmental resources near Fort
Myers Beach. He noted the opportunity to enhance the birding potential of Bowditch Point
and the need for removal of the Australian Pines (enhancements that could be made
regardless of the outcome of the current land swap under consideration). He reviewed the
progress of re-vegetation of the Matanzas Pass Preserve, noting the availability of the
recently completed Master Plan for the Preserve and inviting folks to join in the upcoming
Preserve and Historic Cottage area work day scheduled for April 19. He provided an
overview and status of implementation of the three phases of improvements planned for
Matanzas Pass Preserve
Lois Gressman, Friends of the Matanzas Pass Preserve, reviewed the history of the
Preserve, its ultimate transfer to Lee County, and the history of the Town's dedication to its
preservation, including formation of the non-profit organization "Friends of the Matanzas
Pass." Lois explained why the Preserve is important in our ecological system and reviewed
the opportunities for educational use and for "hands-on" involvement in managing and caring
for the Preserve.
Lois and Roger conducted tours through the Matanzas Pass Preserve throughout the
remainder of the workshop.
Island History/Historic Cottage
A.J. Bassett, resident of Fort Myers Beach since 1940, reviewed the history of the
development and character of Fort Myers Beach from tiny fishing village to bustling tourist
destination. She emphasized that to grow as a community, people must be willing to give
things back. Her presentation culminated in describing the most recent achievement of the
Fort Myers Beach Historical Society, the completion and opening of the Historic Cottage
which was moved to its current location, refurbished, and is soon to serve as both museum
and interpretive center for the Preserve.
Those who took the Matanzas Pass Preserve tour also viewed Lois Gressman's slide
presentation of the natural features of the Preserve and Judy Fitzsimons' slide presentation
of the history of development on the Island, and toured the Historic Cottage.
Heritage and Nature-Based Tourism
Arden Arrington, naturalist/historian of Calusa Coast Outfitters introduced his session on
Heritage and Nature-Based Tourism. He re-emphasized the concept that successful tourism
hinges on the memories that people take back with them. He noted that Florida tourism
studies find that the interest has shifted significantly towards visiting natural and cultural sites
(as opposed to merely commercial attractions). Ironically, the increasing number of people
visiting Fort Myers Beach and the surrounding area will impact the very resources they are
coming here to see. He noted the need for thinking in terms of sustainability of resources and
for educating folks on how to conserve them.
Community Input: Following a slide presentation in the breakout group, participants
identified issues and made recommendations:
- protection of sea grasses, mud flats, rookery islands.
- Establish principles that promote "sustainability" in Eco/Heritage Tourism.
- Work toward possible legislation to promote those principles and enforcement.
- Town needs to take a leadership role in enacting ordinances, facilitating resolution of
- Establish a task force or council on eco/heritage tourism for Fort Myers Beach.
- Create a task force with members from all barrier islands.
- Create an umbrella organization structure to coordinate and reconcile efforts of the
numerous citizen/volunteer organizations.
- Educate residents and rental providers.
- Create signs for rental boats reminding users of protected areas and regulations.
- Circulate brochures to educate users.
- On-site education for personal water craft operators.
- Mark rookery islands.
- Establish more restricted areas and traffic calming techniques in Estero Bay.
- Establish special rules for designated core wildlife areas.
- Establish areas where boats may safely go or should avoid.
Little Estero Island Critical Wildlife Area and Related Beach
Ilene Barnett, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, spoke about Little Estero
Island Critical Wildlife Area and related beach systems, defining beaches as "shorefront
areas of un-consolidated" and noting these areas are always evolving. She demonstrated the
evolution of Little Estero Island with a series of aerial photos dating back to the 1940's. In
describing the need to protect and preserve our beach areas, she noted that beaches are the
first line of defense in a storm and cited the importance of dune vegetation in encouraging the
beach to grow naturally. Little Estero Island, home to over 150 species, is becoming
nationally known and used by many bird and wildlife photographers.
Community Input: Following a slide presentation in the breakout group, participants
formulated their vision for the future of Little Estero Island: keep it natural and continue to
enhance protection of wildlife and habitat. Participants then identified issues and made
- Mowing /raking on shoreline Litter/garbage
- Foot traffic/dune vegetation disturbance Dogs
- Exotic vegetation Commercial operations
- Vehicles, boat traffic, and ultra light planes disturbing wildlife
- Management/enhancement of resource areas, including designation of pedestrian trails
and dune walkovers and adding informational and interpretive signage.
- Recognize the resource in the comprehensive plan and develop guidelines to protect
it. Guidelines should be developed into land development regulations.
- Plant shoreline vegetation to replace lost vegetation from unnatural causes.
- Prepare and adopt a lighting ordinance for turtle nesting.
- Ban commercial activities on Little Estero Island.
- Increase public education through signs, brochures, seminars to encourage proper use
re: birds, turtles, shells, and to limit dogs.
- Accompany regulation with enforcement.
- Improve (interagency and interdepartmental) communication among agencies and
entities having jurisdictional responsibility; periodically schedule speakers to report to
the Town Council on environmental subjects.
- Establish a volunteer task force to promote and oversee stewardship of the area.
- Enact legislation to protect the area for the future as a preserve.
- Consider purchasing more beach front.
Aquatic Preserve/Harbor Issues
Joanne Semmer, President of the Ostego Bay Foundation, spoke about the formation and
current educational, research, and conservation work of the Foundation and brought exhibits
of marine life found in the Bay area. She described the network of activities at the waterfront
related to the fishing and shrimping industry, and made the link to the need for conservation
of water quality in the bay to the health of these industries. She described the oil spill cleanup
functions undertaken by an industry cooperative as one example of conservation activities.
Heather Stafford, State of Florida Department of Environmental Protection, spoke about
the jurisdictional responsibilities of her agency in this area and the functions of her office. She
described the location, extent, and function of the Aquatic Preserve and buffer area, and the
location for public access.
Community Input: During the breakout group sessions, participants described their vision
for the Harbor as being cleaner and having a positive impact on the quality of life. They
identified issues and provided recommendations as follows:
- Water quality.
- Compatibility of uses -- need to address issue of commercial use and zoning of Bay
frontage and surrounding properties on Estero Island.
- Anchorage issues: waste; derelict vessels; etc.
- Limiting personal water craft uses.
- Create a task force of local, state, federal, private and nonprofit groups together to
determine need and make recommendations.
- Support acquisition of Bunche Beach for its preservation.
- Research grant opportunities.
- Provide Gulf launch access and designated areas for use of personal water craft, since
they now must be launched in the Bay even if that isn't their destination.
- Provide increased protection for wildlife through use of such means as buffer areas
and possible legislation.
- Provide education re: all issues to all user groups.
Information and input from this workshop will be used by the consultant team and the LPA
in formulating policy for the following comprehensive plan elements, which will be provided
in preliminary draft form to the LPA beginning this spring:
- First draft preliminary Community Design and Livability Element (technical
background, draft illustrations, goals, objectives, and policies)
- First draft Conservation and Coastal Management Element (technical background,
goals, objectives, and policies); and
- First draft Recreation, Open Space, and Cultural Element (technical background,
goals, objectives, and policies) (scheduled for fall of 1997)